Only two people attended a meeting last night designed to give local people a say on shaping primary school admissions policy in Tower Hamlets.
The consultation, held at Island House Community Centre, on the Isle of Dogs, was the first in a series of meetings and online surveys aimed at discussing new policy ideas with parents in Tower Hamlets and surrounding boroughs.
The low attendance came despite council attempts to promote the event through local advertising and community groups.
Officials hope more people will take part in the online survey and attend next Wednesday’s second consultation at Burdett Neighbourhood Centre.
Abdul Quddus, from the council’s Children Information Services, said he thought the half term holiday might have prevented parents from turning up to talk about proposed changes.
He said: “It’s one of those topics that people don’t take an interest in until it starts to affect them. Tower Hamlets does have a high success rate of getting children into their first choice of school. So the number of people who are actually disadvantaged is very small.”
The new policy aims to give all children applying for primary schools an equal chance of getting into their nearest school, and looks to change the geographical boundaries of the catchment area of each school.
The proposed changes are in response to concerns about accessibility of school places in certain areas of the borough, but will not affect the existing policies that prioritise admission for children with special educational needs, children in care, and those with siblings at their nearest school.
The council is considering two deciding methods in cases of over-subscription. The first will prioritise the child with the furthest distance to an alternative school. The second is an electronic ballot where children are selected at random.
Noelle Lynch, 40, a mother of two from Tower Hamlets, was concerned about the proposed policy for a tiebreak situation.
She said: “As a parent, you’re not really thinking of other children, you’re thinking of your own. If another child were to get priority over your child because they’re further away from their second choice of school, it would be quite hard to swallow.’
The proposed policy and online survey can be found at www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/equalchance.
by Jo Abbas and Joanna Kindeberg